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Insight

IP updates regarding the coronavirus

We are mindful that we are living through challenging and unprecedented times with the rapidly changing situation regarding the coronavirus and we are continuing to monitor and follow Government advice on the best way to proceed on a daily basis.
 
The Fieldfisher London and Manchester offices currently remain open and in Dublin, our team is working from home. We continue to fully support our clients as best we can in the current climate.
 
We set out below some advice and extensions to deadlines issued by various organisations in the IP arena which may affect our clients:
 
The European Patent Office (EPO)
 
The EPO has announced that all deadlines are extended to 17 April 2020. The announcement has been published as a Notice in the Official Journal - Notice from the European Patent Office dated 15 March 2020 concerning the disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The EPO notice applies to all deadlines at the EPO (including those for international applications) due before 17 April 2020. This extension may be further extended by the publication of another Notice if necessary.  
 
The European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
 
The Executive Director announced today that given the 'exceptional occurrence' of the coronavirus outbreak which has 'disrupted proper communication' between parties worldwide and the EUIPO, 'all time limits expiring between 9 March 2020 and 30 April 2020 inclusive that affect all parties in proceedings before the Office are extended until 1 May 2020'. See here for the full Decision signed by the Executive Director – Decision No EX-2—3 of the Executive Director of the Office of 16 March 2020 concerning the extension of time limits.
 
The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO)
 
The UK IPO issued a press release on 11 March 2020 – Coronavirus advice for rights applicants highlighting that:
 
  • It will take whatever measures it can to support rights applicants and their attorneys who have been affected
  • Deadlines: it will extend time periods where national and international legislation allows, and it is willing to support affected customers using the discretionary powers available to it
  • Extensions of time: it is willing to consider requests for extensions of time as favourably as possible on a case-by-case basis
  • Where a failure to meet a time period has resulted in a loss of rights, those rights may be reinstated or restored in certain circumstances
 
Intellectual Property Office of Ireland (IPOI)
 
The IPOI announced on 13 March 2020 that its offices will be shut from Friday 13 March to Sunday 29 March 2020 inclusive but would continue to maintain all of its online and e-services, including e-filing of applications, electronic fee payments and enquiries by telephone and email during normal opening hours. See the official statement here – Office Closure to the Public – Disruption arising from public health concerns and COVID 19.  
 
Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Services and the Ministry of Justice
 
On 13 March 2020, HM Courts and Tribunal Services set up a page providing advice and guidance for all court and tribunal users during the coronavirus outbreak – Coronavirus (COVID-19): courts and tribunals planning and preparation which they indicate will be updated as and when new advice is available.
 
Currently, UK courts and tribunals remain open for business as usual. Any changes to individual hearings will be communicated directly to those affected in the usual way – usually by email or phone.

EU Court of Justice and General Court

The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) and the General Court issued a joint press release on 13 March 2020 – Partial Cessation of Judicial Activities
 
In their statement they explain that only cases that are particularly urgent (such as urgent proceedings, expedited proceedings and interim proceedings) will be dealt with by the courts, until further notice. But in all other cases, the procedural time limits (including time limits for instituting proceedings) will continue to run.
 
However, their statement makes specific reference to Article 45 of the Statute of the CJEU which provides that "no right shall be prejudiced in consequence of the expiry of a time limit if the party concerned proves the existence of unforeseeable circumstances or of force majeure". It is possible that this provision may be of assistance, but it is likely to be considered on a case-by-case basis so in the meantime, it is safer to endeavour to comply with the current time limits wherever possible.
 
We will of course keep a close eye on the impact of coronavirus on courts and tribunals and notify clients accordingly.
  

Please do not hesitate to contact our team should you have any specific queries and we will be sure to update you as and when we have further information.
 

With thanks to Rebecca Pakenham-Walsh for her contribution to this update.
 

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Intellectual Property